Thursday, 10 July 2014

July 9 - Day 35 - Northern Ontario Makes it's Mark

The day started like so many others in the past few weeks, with the rain pissing down outside, and man it was freakin' cold out there.  Sid and I were inside deciding how many layers to wear, and whether or not to pull on full rain gear, for the ride out of Wawa.  Our destination was unclear, but we knew looking forward that we needed to be in Sault Ste. Marie by the 10th, picking up Bill Stensson, and hooking up with John Whitney, and we were still 230km down the road.  Options for campsites were few and far between, with one at 95km, and another at Pancake Bay, 150km away, and although we knew Billy would come and pick us up if we ran short, we didn't want that to happen.  The rain appeared to let up slightly, so we decided to head out.

Nice, July 9

The rain did let up some, and had basically stopped after the first hour or so which was encouraging.  What I couldn't believe, was that it seemed like we were climbing hill after hill after hill.  That pattern continued, and we realized we were going to be in for quite a day, and that it was.  People had told us, and we had read in other cross country blogs, that Northern Ontario was every bit as difficult, if not more so, than the mountain crossing in BC.  Today, we found out that was true.  In the mountains, you could count on long steady climbs at consistent grades, but here in the north country that is not the case. Time after time we climbed up to the top of the cliffs we viewed from the shores of Superior, followed by speedy downhill runs that seemed to run out way too quickly, and then it was back into climbing mode again.  Even the rolling terrain up top was a challenge, and when the wind picked up a little, the grind became more intense.

Old Woman Bay
Too misty to see the lake and cliffs beyond, but this downhill run was stunning

We reached the Agawa Provincial Campground and information centre, 90km into the ride, and stopped in for a break.  These centres in our provincial parks are really amazing.  This one had a full on exhibit in the back half of the building with AV presentations and full info on the wildlife and vegetation in the park, and in the lake.  After a hot chocolate, and purchasing T-shirts to wear for extra layers, we decided to push on and get to Pancake Bay, 60 km away.  One thing was in the back of my mind, and Sid's also I'm sure, that we would have to negotiate the well know Montreal River  climb.  Many people had told us about this climb, being the bad daddy, the mother of mothers, the widow maker, etc., etc., and to be honest, it was a big bad boy, but we handled it well, stopped at the top for pictures, then enjoyed that beauty of a downhill, right down to the lake.  My hands were sore from pulling on the brakes!

The top just ahead, sun is out but still cold

The pattern continued, and with my thighs still burning from the climb, yet another hill appeared just ahead.  Sometimes clouds do have silver linings, and at the crest of this next hill we found the most remote chip truck in Northern Ontario.  It has become a rule on this trip that we don't pass a chip truck, so we stopped in for some fuel.......and good fuel it was.

With a wad of fried potatoes safely tucked away, we were off, full of confidence that Pancake Bay was now in our reach.  It took a couple of more hours, but we made it in to camp at around 7:45pm, after 150km, over 1,200 metres climbed, and untold calories burned.  This was an epic day for us, not because of the numbers, but because of the struggle against all elements, and we will remember it forever.  

Bill was all set up Pancake Bay, with a camp fire burning, and pasta cooking on the stove......what a guy.  He has been invaluable on the trip, and now reunited with BS, things can only get better.

OK Cheap was a hard day at the office

It's a Community Out There - UPDATE

We are sitting having lunch in Vermillion Bay, at that cute coffee shop, and we are talking to two brothers and one of their wives.  They are interested in the ride, so we tell them all about it and where we are going etc..  They are travelling across the north to go and visit Grandma in Thunder Bay, and say in parting, "We'll see you out there". ...........Sid and I are riding across the top of Thunder Bay heading out of town and a red 1/2 ton goes past us peeping heir horn with arms waving out the windows, and it was those guys.......couldn't believe it........must have smiled for miles after that.


Everyone who has been following my blog since Day 1 knows about the mystery woman/man, asian/non-asian, cyclist, with the sun hat under the bike helmet, who was about a half hour ahead of us every day but we could never catch them..............WE DID.........Sid met this gal called Kathy in the campground at White River who was cycling across on her own and blah, blah, blah,.......never thought anything about it.  The next day we pass her, and she has the doofus blue sun hat under her helmet, and it didn't even dawn on me until today that it was her.  Amazing. She has since re-passed us, and with a short day planned tomorrow, will have a big lead once again.


I neglected to mention three young guys we met heading west from Barrie, hoping to be in Vancouver by mid-August.  They are riding for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the head honcho of the group (at least the guy with the business card) is Charles MacMurchy.  Wishing them all the best.

OK, time to wrap it up, so will leave you with a little gallery of scenes from our epic day on the bikes........hope you enjoy......

 Our favourite traffic sign
 Sand River meets Superior
While I was taking this, two motorcyclists had stopped to photograph a moose 50 yards ahead.......gone by the time we got there 

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